19 September 2012

Isaiah 40:10-17

"All the nations are as nothing before him." (v. 17)


I had the huge privilege of hearing Professor John Polkinghorne speak a few weeks ago. He is both a theoretical physicist, and an ordained Anglican priest. In fact, he gave up his work at Cambridge University to be ordained. Polkinghorne opened up much of science's mysteries to me (a scientific no-hoper) in a way that opened my mind up to all sorts of new possibilities about the universe, and, through his educating process, I felt that my faith was affirmed through his explanations and his own understanding.

There is often seen to be conflict between science and faith, but today's passage helps me to acknowledge just how science is a gift to all of us, to help, and to start to begin to fathom the unfathomable! Not so long ago, I was asked my opinion on prayer. I probably gave some sort of stock answer about a conversation between us and God (which is still an important point), but was then further questioned on what either we or God might gain from this process. We talked some more, and we both became quite excited about the prospect that as we pray, we might gain a greater understanding of God's nature and character. This process could of course take place for ever, and we'd never gain a proper or full understanding, but it is in the act of doing so that we realise further who we are called to be, in the light of God's loving nature.

This passage suggests to me that Isaiah is experiencing a new understanding of God, which is explained both in terms of just how Almighty God appears to him when he contemplates this idea, and how he simply cannot truly contemplate God's existence. While Isaiah uses these thoughts to help inspire him further, it can sometimes be tough to read these kinds of passages. Where Isaiah finds true meaning or understanding, we might find existential angst, or a fear or terror of just how vast everything is. Yet, we can be reassured that "he will feed his flock like a shepherd, gather them, carry them and gently lead them" (v. 11). These words are a huge comfort to me, when I have thought too much, or worried too much, or filled myself with fear, because it is Almighty God, (who knows and understands everything) who will always be alongside us, and can guide us away from those fears, if we truly believe. That isn't to say that we will never be afraid again, or will never come across trouble, but we can be sure that the God of Isaiah, the God of history, the God of such incredible and unimaginable magnitude will be alongside us, fighting our corner with us. What a blessing that we can know this to be true!

To Ponder

  • If science and faith are compatible, what can we (as believers) take from this relationship?
  • How might existential angst be tempered by images of God as the shepherd?

Bible notes author

Jon Curtis

Jon Curtis is a Venture FX pioneer minister in Exeter, Devon. He lives with his exceptional wife Beth, and beautiful baby Freddie.